Region reaps two NEA grants

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded grants to Goodspeed Opera House and Mystic Ballet.

A $30,000 grant will support the Goodspeed's new production of Irving Berlin's "Holiday Inn," and a $10,000 grant will go toward Mystic Ballet's commissioning of new works for The Choreography Project.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, announced the grants on Wednesday and said in a statement, "Eastern Connecticut's arts scene is an important part of our culture, as well as a driver of tourism in our area. These grants will support new performances that will entertain local residents and draw visitors who will gain an appreciation for the unique charms eastern Connecticut has to offer."

Mystic Ballet's Choreography Project brings in choreographers, gives them a space to work for several weeks with Mystic Ballet dancers, and then presents their works. Those performances happen locally - at the Mystic Stage at Olde Mistick Village Art Cinemas, for instance, or Foxwoods' Fox Theater - but also abroad. Dancers just performed in Japan, and the group soon will travel festivals in Germany, Belgrade and Central America.

The Choreography Project has been in existence for about five years.

Mystic Ballet Artistic Director Goran Subotic said Wednesday of getting the NEA grant, "It's a huge honor for us to be considered and granted this recognition. It's two ways - not just the financial (award), but also the recognition of our work."

At Goodspeed, meanwhile, "Holiday Inn" will run from Sept. 19 to Nov. 30 at the East Haddam opera house. It's the world premiere of this musical, which is based on the classic 1942 film starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby.

The production will feature Berlin's songs - including "Happy Holiday" and "Easter Parade" - and a book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge. Greenberg is also directing; he helmed other Goodspeed productions such as "Happy Days" and "Pirates of Penzance." Hodge has created TV shows including "The Playboy Club" on NBC and the upcoming "Wayward Pines" on Fox.

"Holiday Inn" is being produced in association with Universal Stage Productions - which produced "Wicked" and "Billy Elliot" - and by arrangement with The Irving Berlin Music Company.

In the grant announcement, Goodspeed Executive Director Michael P. Price said, "We are so appreciative of Congressman Courtney's leadership in funding the NEA which, in turn, allows us to create brand new musicals like Irving Berlin's 'Holiday Inn' for audiences in Connecticut and across the nation."

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